ThinkProgress filed this report from Grand Rapids, MI.
As the backlash against the GOP’s plan to end Medicare grows, so does the attempt to block reporters from covering it. As ThinkProgress has reported, several Republicans are clamping down on citizen journalists at their events. But this weekend, the Tea Party of West Michigan took this to the next level.
At the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids Saturday evening, the Tea Party group hosted a fireside chat with Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) for Tea Party supporters. The event was not open to the public, though numerous senior citizens were told the event was a town hall and were turned away at the door. A few seniors gathered outside on the sidewalk to discuss the various issues they had hoped to discuss with Amash, including their disapproval of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare privatization plan. While seniors spoke with ThinkProgress and a reporter from the Michigan Messenger, organizers from the Tea Party group called campus security, summoning eight officers to force six seniors and two reporters off the premises.
According to security, the people who called them said the seniors had thrown things at the Tea Party organizers. Watch it:
According to multiple members inside, no objects were ever thrown. When asked, the conference center staff said they did not call security — indicating that the Tea Party asked security to move the constituents away from the building.
For an organization that’s campaigned for greater transparency from government officials, these actions seem to be anathema to its principles. Indeed, Tea Party organizer Lisa Dupont told the Michigan Messenger’s Sam Inglot that they intentionally blocked media from the event. “That’s our choice,” Dupont said. “We just wanted it to be laid back and comfortable, we’re asking the questions.” She then said she’d ask Amash if he minded. When Amash arrived, he demurred, saying “this is not an appropriate venue” and that this “happens all the time, whether I mind it or not.”
Attendees at the event, however, told ThinkProgress they were surprised reporters were not allowed in. One attendee went back inside to inform Amash that reporters were waiting in the lobby. However, according to Tea Party member Paul Meyer, the organization appointed him to keep reporters out, even after the event was over as we were considered a “security issue.”
After further questioning, security was summoned for a second time. According to the guards, the call again came from Tea Party organizers.
When leaving the event, one attendee stopped to tell ThinkProgress how Amash was a politician of principle. In singing his praises, she told ThinkProgress that “he is a big proponent of transparency.”